Post Of The Week – Saturday 26th March, 2016

1) Brain Training

When we study working memory, we look at the claim that it is possible to train people to have more effective working memory. The key concept is transfer. People might improve their scores on a brain training game but they are unable to transfer success from these to other tasks. This is dealt with in this article here.

The evidence overall is not positive for brain training but it depends on the age of the participants and the type of game. As with anything else in Psychology, high quality longitudinal studies are thin on the ground, making it hard to draw definite conclusions.


2) VR Treatment For Phobias

I used to show students material about this in a video made about 15 years ago but I’ve not seen so much about it in recent years. This article explains how VR can be used to treat phobias and some other conditions besides, most notably depression where an avatar is used to develop positive self-talk.

There’s reference too to the treatment of PTSD in war veterans, something we cover as part of the course.


3) Uta Frith On Autism

This documentary was first broadcast a couple of years ago, is brilliant and is on iPlayer for three weeks or so.


4) International Neuroinformatics Co-ordinating Facility

This sounds dull but, as the video shows, isn’t. Brain science is advancing rapidly but the process of co-ordinating research and sharing information is complex. The video describes how one project is trying to do this. There’s a related interview here.


5) TMS For Anorexia Nervosa

We look at Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation as a treatment for Depression in the A2 course. This video and article report some work from the Institute Of Psychiatry into its use for anorexia nervosa.

The results are promising. Two interesting points. Firstly, TMS can be tested using sham TMS in a randomised controlled trial. Secondly, the last sentence of the article shows that understanding how it works is an important part of proving that it works.


6) Insulin Spikes

In the A2 Eating Behaviour topic, we explore the idea that a calorie is not just a calorie and that different nutrients influence body weight in different ways. This article explores the effects of insulin spikes. It doesn’t suggest that these cause the body to store energy as fat as some researchers suggest but it does present a list of serious health problems arising from insulin spikes arising from food with too much sugar.


7) Autism – Genotype And Phenotype

In both AS and A2 groups, we have watched the BBC report about Karen Ersche’s research at Cambridge looking at brain differences in people living with addiction and non-addicted siblings. They share patterns of activity in parts of the brain associated with self-control which are assumed to have a genetic basis. We therefore understand the relationship between genotype and phenotype.

This article looks at similar work on autism. Autism is clearly polygenic. People with autism share genetic variations with people classed as normally functioning but who may display traits which resemble autism to some extent. Understanding this is a a starting point for untangling the processes by which autism develops.

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